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Judo has grown and developed as an Olympic sport. It is the first Olympic sport to have originated in Asia, with Dr Jigoro Kano being the first Asian IOC member. When it debuted at the 1964 Tokyo Games, it was a men-only discipline and there were just four weight classes. However since 1992, men and women have competed in seven weight classes each; the men’s contests last five minutes whilst women’s contests last four.
Competitors (“Judoka”) take part in a single-elimination tournament after being divided into two pools by a draw. An unusual twist is that there are two bronze medals.
The two losing semi-finalists move directly into the semi-finals of the competition for bronze. All other competitors who lost to the two finalists compete in a knockout tournament within their original pools, and two winners emerge to fill the remaining semi-final spots. Each pool’s winner then faces the losing semi-finalist from the opposite pool, and the two winners compete for the bronze.
The sport, not surprisingly, has been dominated by the Japanese, who have won three times as many gold medals as their nearest rival France. Other strong countries in Judo today are Korea, Russia, China, Brazil and Cuba.